The art was missing.
With no high-resolution digital record of the Consecrate Land art, a bizarre quest was undertaken to get the card ready to print. Then-art director Jeremy Cranford found Jeff Menges, the artist of Consecrate Land from Alpha, who was generous enough to share the story with us in his own words.
Jeremy Cranford emailed me to find out if I had the painting, or knew who did. I had a vague idea, it was one of the first paintings I'd sold, to an acquaintance of Jesper [Myrfors]'s (Magic’s original art director). Actually it had never even returned to me from Seattle, so I hadn't even a slide of it. And too much time had lapsed for Jesper to have any recollection of who it wound up with. There was no sketch either, it was likely that was sold in ‘94-‘95, and I didn't keep detailed records of sketch sales then. Nothing. Jeremy C. told me if they couldn't get a better image, they would probably pass on the card.
It was a rare opportunity to have—being asked to bring back a card that never made it as far as Revised. I didn't want to let it go simply because we couldn't track it down. Last spring, when Jeremy C. contacted me, I was enrolled in a class on blending traditional and digital mediums. William Low, a great digital illustrator and painter was teaching the course as part of F.I.T.'s Illustration MA program. One of his assignments involved using digital printouts on high-quality paper or canvas as underpaintings for fully painted finishes. Rather than lose the chance of the card’s inclusion (because we couldn't track it down), I asked if I could try to recreate the Consecrate Land image. I said—let me try it, if you don't like it, it's on me, if it works, then we can run with it. The trick was, it had to look like the old card, no "improvements". I had a bit over a week to do it.
[In order to reconstruct Consecrate Land, Jeff then worked from low-resolution reproductions of the original art.]
This is from the email I sent to Jeremy C. when I sent him a first look at the work I had done—
"I believe that even next to an old copy, it will appear to be no more different than any image that's had a slight color shift on press. I think your printing is better now, and would imagine that even if we had the original painting (and a new scan), details would appear sharper on this printing. I hope it passes the grade. Regardless of the outcome, I appreciate the chance to do it. "
Jeremy wrote back that it should work fine, that he would get it into the set, and joked that I had a future in being a counterfeit artist.
Thanks to Jeff for his hard work for the sake of Time Spiral, and for bringing the story to magicthegathering.com! Below is the result. How many artists can say they forged their own work?